The Rules Puzzle

Hey everybody, let’s learn a new game!

At your house — or around your group of family or friends that you play board games with — what kind of responses would you receive when making this statement? In my parts, there is a good chance I’m going to get some groans. Maybe some slouched body language. Or maybe interest that quickly delves into impatience after five minutes.

Can you relate? It seems to me that there are plenty of people who are interested in games — who like playing them, but just don’t want to “learn” a game. If you can just get those people around that initial hurdle, there’s a good chance they enjoy the experience — want to play the game more.

My post today is not about how to make learning a new game easier or more satisfying — that’s a great topic. I may plunge into it at another time — or there are definitely those in the industry who have dived into those depths already. Instead, I just want to briefly discuss how I don’t “get this” — personally, at least. Yes, I enjoy playing a game more than learning one…but I still enjoy that part of the process as well.

The whole experience of a new game is stimulating. Taking off the shrink-wrap — joyous! Opening the box lid that first time to see what all is inside — heart-pounding! Then, finding the rulebook — we’re going on an adventure!

I have to say — I appreciate the experience of reading through a rulebook. The setup — figuring out how to get all the cool pieces in the box out and where they belong.

Then, the rules. This part is like a visual puzzle. If done well, rules are not just a list of instructions that need memorized — they are the game itself, a puzzle that needs pieced together bit by bit, rule by rule. Examining the rulebook then is a chance to see how this masterpiece in a box comes to life. I’m not just learning “how” to play the game, but I’m learning HOW to play the game. [After moving, then you take action A, B, or C — ah! So, that means I need to be making sure I have this, so I can do this…got it!]

The rulebook is also like a teaser trailer (well, a good teaser — not the kind that shows you all the funny moments in two minutes, leaving the actual movie a disappointment). Not only do I know how to literally play the game, but I can now imagine what turns will look like, get a sense for how the game will unfold — the goals that I am trying to obtain, the potential pitfalls I need to keep a wary eye out for –> I can’t wait to start!

I love playing board games — the whole experience, including reading the rules. And that’s okay.

What about you? Do you cringe when a rulebook comes out of a box or do you get excited to open that book up and start learning?

Note: In a future post, I plan on discussing good vs. bad rulebooks. Makes a huge difference!

For more board game discussions, follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1

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